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Apple's Siri Was Originally a Super Genius; for Android Too

The Huffington Post has an interesting story about the history of Apple's Siri, painting a picture of a now-watered-down AI that originally made its debut as a foul-mouthed standalone app for iOS and Android back in 2010. That's right: Siri used to say the F-word, something you'll never hear the virtual assistant say now that she sleeps under Apple's roof.

Dag Kittlaus, Siri's co-founder and chief executive, said that the AI's attitude had been carefully crafted, and it even had a backstory. Siri was to be "otherworldly" and armed with a dry wit, but vaguely aware of popular culture. It didn't communicate with a voice, but replied to the user with text based on information pulled from 42 different web services like Yelp, StubHub, Rotten Tomatoes, Wolfram Alpha and more.

"It had been able to buy tickets, reserve a table and summon a taxi, all without a user having to open another app, register for a separate service or place a call. It was already on the verge of 'intuiting' a user's pet peeves and preferences to the point that it would have been able to seamlessly match its suggestions to his or her personality," the Huffington Post writes.

Siri was originally designed to be a "do engine" that was capable of holding conversations with its users (which Apple still tries to convey in its Siri commercials). A user who had too many drinks could simply say "I'm drunk take me home," and Siri would have enough smarts to send a car service to the user's present location.

Siri's roots actually stems back to the Defense Department-funded project CALO, or Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes. The project was developed at the non-profit Stanford Research Institute (SRI) international research lab which contracted with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Members of the team saw that the technology could lead to a profitable company, thus the 24-person startup Siri was founded by Kittlaus along with Adam Cheyer (VP Engineering) from SRI, and Tom Gruber (CTO/VP Design).

In 2009, Verizon signed a deal with Siri to make the virtual assistant a default app on all Android phones set to launch in 2010. But Apple quickly swooped in and purchased the company, insisting that Siri be an iPhone exclusive and thus terminated the Verizon deal. Prior to that, Siri had been available on both Android and iOS for a full two months.

Now Siri is a less robust version of its former self, cut off from most of the services that made it highly intelligent. Since Apple's acquisition, Siri has gained a voice and additional languages, but the AI is far from the conversational intelligence Apple depicts in its TV adverts. Apple's overbloated size has reportedly hindered its ability to forge deals with the services once synced with Siri.

Ultimately the potential for Siri to be great once again is there, but whether it reaches that level again is up to Apple and service providers. To read the full extensive history of Siri, head here.


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